EPA Cites Two Oil and Gas Firms Over Permian Basin Pollution
Matador Production Company has agreed to pay $6.2 million in fines and mitigation measures related to 239 oil and gas well pads in New Mexico, while Permian Resources Operating agreed earlier to pay $610,000 and make improvements to its equipment to settle environmental violations.
Two Texas companies have resolved Clean Air Act violations with the Environmental Protection Agency by agreeing to reduce emissions of planet-warming methane and other harmful pollutants wafting from the nation’s largest oil and gas producing region.
The EPA announced on 27 March that Matador Production Company has agreed to pay $6.2 million in fines and mitigation measures related to 239 oil and gas well pads in New Mexico. Permian Resources Operating agreed earlier in March to pay $610,000 and make improvements to its equipment to settle environmental violations.
The enforcement actions came after EPA flew a helicopter equipped with a special infrared camera that can detect emissions of hydrocarbon vapors that are invisible to the naked eye.
EPA announced a new round of overflights in August, 4 days after publication of an investigation by The Associated Press that showed 533 oil and gas facilities in the region are emitting excessive amounts of methane and named the companies most responsible.
The AP used 2021 data from the group Carbon Mapper to document massive amounts of methane venting into the atmosphere from “super emitters” across the Permian Basin, a 250-mile-wide bone-dry expanse along the Texas/New Mexico border.
The EPA has said the timing of its 2022 overflights was not related to AP’s story and that similar aerial surveillance had been conducted in years past. The federal complaint filed against Matador said unlawful emissions were observed in 2019, while Permian Resources was cited for evidence collected during overflights in 2020.
Methane emissions in themselves are not illegal under current federal law, but the Clean Air Act does regulate other pollutants also contained in the gasses emitted during fossil fuel production, such as volatile organic compounds that contribute to health problems including asthma, lung infections, bronchitis, and cancer.
“Air quality in the Permian Basin is at risk of not meeting national standards,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “We will continue to work with the State of New Mexico to ensure that oil and gas production operations are operating within the law to improve air quality and public health in surrounding communities.”